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Belarusian and Latvian experiences in comparison in the framework of TANDEM II

In the framework of TANDEM II an international study visit to Latvia was organised from 14th until 20th September 2014 by the project partner, the Latvian Association of Local and Regional Governments (LALRG).

Belarusian participants from various backgrounds: local NGOs, civil society groups (as well as grassroots citizens’ initiatives), and local authorities took part in this project. ALDA’s project manager, Mariam Khotenashvili participated in the study visit too. The objectives of the study visit were to give Belarusian participants a comprehensive understanding of the reforms undertaken in Latvia to strengthen local governance and citizen participation since gaining independence. 
Time was taken to exchange ideas, share experience between the two parties, raise awareness on the Latvian case, show similarities and differences with Belarus, and identify possibilities which can be utilised by Belarus. The study visit furthermore strengthened the relations between the Belarusian participants, namely the participating civil society actors and local authorities, thus not only giving them an understanding of the reforms and changes experienced in a Latvian context but also fostering mutual respect and potential cooperation with each other. A 1-day conference led by LALRG introduced the participants to the reforms which have taken place in Latvia to date. This was followed by several trips to Latvian cities (Daugapils, Prejli, Jūrmala, Elgava) on which a number of interesting citizen initiatives were being presented to the group. Examples of the citizen initiatives. Please see the pictures and descriptions below: 

Picture 1 - A choir, made up of the elderly, performing folk songs in the city of Jūrmala. A local initiative supported by the city municipality. 

Picture 2 - Street gymnasts during exercise. Training facilities and outdoor exercise equipment were installed near a local school by the municipality of Jūrmala and with the efforts of the local youth movement. 
Additionally, older students have been given the opportunity to take on the position of training coaches to younger students, enabling a proactive, hands-on approach to promoting a healthier lifestyle and regular exercise. It is anticipated that the facilities will also expand the health benefits to a wider cross section of the population. 

Picture 3 - An artists’ installation in the city of Riga, initiated by local artists and implemented with the support of the Riga municipality. 

Picture 4 -  A historical wooden building re-constructed by a local citizens initiative in Grizinkalns, Riga. The project was supported by the European Union and serves currently as a meeting point for local civil society, hosting various events and exhibitions throughout the year. 

Picture 5 -  Day care centre for disabled children in Jūrmala,operating thanks to a local citizens initiative, the cooperation of Jūrmala municiaplity, and financial support of the European Union. 


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